In the world of free-to-play games, few have been at it harder or longer than Nexon. The company has made a name for itself in RPGs, side-scrolling beat’em-ups, and other styles that cultivate world communities of players for only as much dough as you’re willing to invest. One of these successful ventures is Combat Arms, a free-to-play first-person shooter. Launched in Korea in 2007, Combat Arms has long-since gone worldwide, cultivating a millions-strong player base that has continually engaged in its hefty arsenal of guns, gear, maps, and modes. However, it was much more recently that Nexon launched the latest chapter in this shooter’s life, branding this new installment Combat Arms: Reloaded
Combat Arm: Reloaded is the promise of much more than your average update to a game. Maps, guns, modes, graphics, and interfaces have been wholly reworked to bring Combat Arms to the next level. So among the mountain of new content, where does one start in this revamped maelstrom of bullet-slinging mayhem? Well, GameWatcher reached out to Nexon to find out and Combat Arms Product Manager Marc Sandifer and Community Manager Almuth Mackowiak were kind enough to answer the call. During a lengthy chat, Sandifer and Mackowiak answered our burning questions about what went into Reloaded, how things have changed to make the game more approachable than ever while satisfying the old standards, and what comes next for this revolutionary new chapter in the life of Combat Arms.
GameWatcher: Now this is a free-to-play shooter and a bit of a successor to the original Combat Arms format. Why the jump to a new title with Combat Arms: Reloaded? What makes this the next chapter for Combat Arms?
Marc Sandifer: There’s quite a lot of reasons, but perhaps the biggest is that this is a much bigger step than we’ve ever taken with any previous Combat Arms update. We’ve had changes before the affected the gameplay more or less, but this is really a whole new package between graphics, redesigns, and more, which is why we felt that it deserved a new title as well.
GameWatcher: In any good first-person shooter, you have to have the hardware and Combat Arms: Reloaded has it in droves with over 600 guns and counting. Why so many? What goes in to the process of setting these weapons apart from one another?
Sandifer: What’s really important for us and what has always been a key feature of Combat Arms is that you can entirely customize your equipment to the way you play. You can find the combination of gun and gear that makes your playstyle pop, and for that purpose, variety has always been important to us. At the same, we certainly try to stay away from quantity over quality. Every gun has features that match its real-life counterpart and set it apart from the others in some way. There’s quite a lot of history in our weapons and we put a lot of thought into making sure each one is a meaningful addition to the game. There’s certainly a few cosmetic options, but what’s more important to us is that our players see the guns are there and make use of the whole arsenal in one way or another. For the over 600 guns we’ve supplied, factoring accuracy, fire-rate, and even sound, every player is going to find the one that fits them with enough time.
GameWatcher: Of course the guns are also going to be where a lot of transactions happen, but are there other ways to customize in Combat Arms: Reloaded outside of weapons and attachments?
Almuth Mackowiak: There are different ways to customize your characters that go well beyond weapons. We know there are players who like speedy gameplay and want to move fast, playing game modes that require quick movement and jumping a lot. There are also players who want to take on a more tactical and strategic pace in their games and want protection and defensive stats that favor that style. We offer a lot of characters that are preset for these types of situations and more, as well as gear, such as backpacks, armor, pants, and hats, with various stat boosts to accommodate the various playstyles players are looking for. We’re talking about the type of gear that allows you to completely deck your character out for forward assault or one that might cater more heavily to sniping, just to name a few.
GameWatcher: A lot of players often fear the concept of pay-to-win formats in free-to-play games. Is it difficult to fill an arsenal or get properly equipped without having to dedicate some cash if a player isn’t ready to invest?
Sandifer: No, I don’t think it’s difficult at all now actually. Previously, we had a slightly different system with Game Points, which is the currency you earn by playing and winning matches. You could rent guns or equipment for a set period of time, such as a seven day cycle, but that meant that the gun couldn’t be permanent. In the update, we made it so that now any gun or piece of equipment that you would have had to acquire with real money can now be purchased or upgraded into permanence with Game Points.
Mackowiak: It doesn’t take that long either. With about a day or two of play, you could get enough Game Points to get a permanent weapon. For new players it’s even easier to get to that first weapon because you start with a set number of Game Points in your account to get yourself started and acquainted with the game. After you’ve tried out some things in game and in the shooting range that we offer to let players test things, a day or two of play combined with the starting Game Points should get you to that first permanent weapon. There’s also plenty of renting options for smaller amounts of Game Points to play around with other guns or their various versions. It’s not such a massive bonus that you should feel like you need it. You can still get a lot of points in a short time with enough play. We worked to lower the hurdle so that players won’t feel like acquiring permanent gear is ever too long of a chore.
GameWatcher: Does the player that doesn’t pay have a distinct disadvantage to the ones that do?
Sandifer: Combat Arms isn’t a game that necessarily works out well for someone buying gear or weapons from the first second. Even if you were to buy a bunch of guns from the first second, you’d still have to learn how to use them, figure out their intricacies and see how they work with the way you play. If two players created an account today where one didn’t spend any money and the other did, I don’t think you’d see a difference in performance in favor of the one who spent. At the end of the day, it is still reliant on player skill and growing familiarity with their chosen weapons and gear.
Mackowiak: One of the larger things that went into Reloaded was a major rebalancing of all the weapons. We started out with very basic weapons when Combat Arms began, but over the course of 10 years, many more weapons came about and there was quite a power creep in there. With Reloaded, we reworked every weapon so no one weapon in any category completely outmatches any of the others in performance. The different families of weapons still act worlds apart and effective in their various situations, such as a sniper rifle versus a shotgun, but the balance we’ve introduced ensures that player skills, control, and handling will be the overall determining factor in how well those weapons perform.
GameWatcher: There’s the maps too. We’ve seen quite some variation in design in the early running with the likes of sea-based oil platforms and warehouse districts. What went into building these levels and setting them apart from other shooters?
Sandifer: From my perspective, it’s very interesting to work with a game that was originally launched almost a decade ago. I look at these maps and think having this in a new engine is an absolutely great idea. It makes me think about the people that remake their favorite maps from games like Counterstrike in more modern shooters with more current graphics and controls. So instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we went back and sifted through the best maps of the game and started modernizing and making them all better looking, one by one. It came to over 60 pretty impressive maps for players to explore.
GameWatcher: Was it difficult to move maps from the previous format to Reloaded?
Sandifer: One of the more interesting things we attempted and I think succeeded in was not altering gameplay as we moved from the original Combat Arms to Reloaded. Reloaded’s engine is still based on the Jupiter engine that we used for the original game. What we did for Reloaded was make improvements to the engine that upped the look of the game without changing anything about how players played. We didn’t touch gameplay much at all. Furthermore, we know that a lot of players play Combat Arms on a low to mid-range PCs, so we made it possible for them to choose between using the Reloaded engine with its visual updates or the classic Combat Arms engine for the sake of frames and lag. Switching between the engines is extremely easy in the options menu and you can even do it mid-match if you want. It’s certainly interesting to see the direct comparison. The point is that we reworked these maps to look good in both engines and we worked carefully with the old engine to ensure that the game would be fully playable no matter which one you use.
GameWatcher: How about modes? There’s obviously team deathmatch and free-for-all modes, but what else does Reloaded offer?
Mackowiak: At current, there are probably around 26 different modes for players to play in Reloaded. Elimination (Team Deathmatch) and Free-For-All are the two major online modes, but we also offer a great deal of different options. For instance, bomb planting, co-op zombie survival, and various objective-based modes appear in addition to hardcore versions of a lot of different modes which increase damage, recoil, and stamina use for jumping to add an extra twist onto the standard modes. A few modes were cut in the transition to Reloaded, but we still have made it possible for every type of player to find a game type that suits them whether they’re alone or with friends.
GameWatcher: 20-plus game modes and over 60 maps is still a lot of content in which to play around. And you said you cut some things for Reloaded? How did you determine what maps and modes made it to the final cut of Reloaded?
Sandifer: Luckily, we didn’t have to cut a lot, but what we did cut was mostly based on statistics and what we saw players doing. If they weren’t playing a particular map or mode, it was on us to ask if we really needed it. There’s always a chance for these things to come back, but it has always been dependent upon the fans and whether they want it badly enough for us to renew or rework a map or mode. We wanted to prioritize based on where the quality was and we gauged that based on what content saw the most activity.
GameWatcher: What about ranked or tournament play? Combat Arms has always cultivated a competitive spirit. Do you have any plans to engage teams and clans with any official esports activity?
Sandifer: We do feature a ranking system and we’re currently testing out seasons. We’d like to run events, but we’re also out to make sure that the ranking and season system work properly so we can ensure those events will be successful from a technical standpoint. After we finish the testing, the end goal is to allow players to rank up properly and be rewarded for whatever their rank is at the end of the season. We hope that will help lead to a cultivated competitive scene. It would be cool to get into esports, but for the immediate future, we’re going to run most events without direct interaction. That said, we’re set to eventually approach teams and clans to see what sort of competition we can bring together in the events, but it will still be some time down the line before we can adjust and perfect exactly what we’ve got and form some local events.
GameWatcher: This game has a big following around the world, well into millions of players. How have you handled all the feedback so far going into Reloaded? What goes into working with your community?
Mackowiak: One of the most distinct and challenging, but also rewarding parts of our player base is that there isn’t just one community, so much as many, many communities. Due to the long history of the game, the fact that so many players have entered the game at vastly different points, and the variety of ways to play, Combat Arms can offer different things to every player. That breeds dozens of different player groups and diverse perspectives on the game. It makes approaching and working with the community a unique sort of endeavor. You’ve got the groups that really enjoy the themed horror-zombie gameplay aspects, groups that go out of their way to perform the freakiest stunts they can pull off in game, and the incredibly hardcore competitive player base that do things like using the most basic and hardest to handle weapons, just to name a few. There are incredible differences in philosophy about the game between all those camps. It’s kind of the beauty of Combat Arms: Reloaded that it fosters that diversity of groups and means something different to nearly everyone.
Sandifer: It makes it quite challenging as well. Each of these sub-cultures develops their own philosophy as to how the game should work. That made for an incredible challenge in approaching Reloaded. We listened carefully to all these different groups until we could put together one unified direction that worked best for Combat Arms: Reloaded. We feel like it makes the game special and fascinating to work with thanks to that difference of community.
GameWatcher: What’s the next big thing for Combat Arms: Reloaded? Are there any immediate plans you can share as you continue to support this game?
Sandifer: We see Combat Arms: Reloaded as a foundation of what’s to come. We’ve essentially created a new solid base from which to improve upon. We have plans for the near future and further down the line when it comes to the functional and visual nature of Combat Arms, as well as directly playable content. It’s nothing we can be very specific about yet because we’re still process of polishing what we’ve released with Reloaded, but I would suspect that players and fans can expect to hear some news very soon.
The original Combat Arms had already spent years cultivating a game that appealed to the diverse natures of its player base with a nearly unparalleled wealth of content. Combat Arms: Reloaded offers the next logical step in Nexon’s dedication to attempting to give its diverse fan base what they’re looking for. If you’ve got the time and an itchy trigger finger, Reloaded will offer something to suit your needs, and with this new foundation established, it’s looking like a better time than ever to jump and see what happens next.
To learn more or sign up and download Combat Arms: Reloaded, check out the game’s official website.
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